It was a rough couple of weeks for the Laskowski family of San Antonio, Texas.
On April 26, Christopher Laskowski’s dog Thor, a friendly 3-year-old pit bull, had escaped from the backyard via a hole in the fence. Christopher, who is 31 and suffers from degenerative disc disease, was inconsolable, and so was his other pittie, Thor’s 14-year-old sister Athena. Christopher spent three or four hours each day looking for his lost friend, leaving the back gate open in hopes Thor would appear. The family checked local animal shelters and canvassed the neighborhood, but there was no sign of Thor. “I think somebody took him, because he’d gotten out before, but he always came back,” Christopher says.
Like any dog lovers who’ve had a beloved pet go missing, the Laskowskis were beside themselves with worry, fearing the absolute worst. “I couldn’t sleep,” Christopher recalls. “Pretty much every night I stood outside by the door, worrying. It’s your job to protect the dog you adopt; I felt like I’d failed him. It’s terrible when you don’t know what happened to your dog.”
Then, on May 8, “I was at home and my cellphone rang,” recalls Christopher’s mother, Eileen, whose number is the backup on Thor’s microchip. “The woman said, ‘We found your dog Scrappy!’ I said, ‘If this is a joke, it isn’t funny. Then I thought, Wait — that could’ve been Thor’s name at the shelter where Christopher adopted him. So I started crying and said, ‘Where are you located?’ And she said, ‘Long Island, New York.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, please quit — do you know where I am?! San Antonio!'”
But it wasn’t a cruel prank — Scrappy had indeed been Thor’s shelter handle at the City of San Antonio Animal Care Services, and he was indeed in New York. In fifteen days, Thor had somehow managed to travel some 1,800 miles!
However he did it, Thor isn’t telling. But the Laskowskis are convinced that somebody with cruel intentions stole him. “Maybe they picked him up and took him for a ride, intending to use him for dogfighting,” Eileen says. “Then maybe they decided he was too sweet, so they dumped him.”
A kindly police officer spotted Thor and — realizing the handsome, muscular dog was 45 pounds of solid mush — brought him to the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island, where a staffer called the numbers on his microchip.
The Laskowskis were overjoyed — especially Christopher. “He’s so important to me — he’s my baby boy,” he says. “People treat you differently when you’re disabled, but dogs never judge you; they just love you for who you are. My dogs know when I’m hurting, when I’m sad, and they do everything they possibly can to make me feel better.”
Next came the challenge of transporting Thor back to Texas. The vet hospital connected the Laskowskis with Don Montes, licensed veterinary technician and owner of AmbuVet. Although air transport is not in his line — AmbuVet is a go-to service used by many carless New Yorkers to transport dogs to and from animal hospitals; the vehicle provides critical patients with first aid and oxygen during the ride — Don rose to the challenge.
“Something like this happens once in a blue moon, and this was an opportunity for me to give back,” he says. “Plus, Thor is an awesome dog.”
So, after a kind lady in nearby Rockport, Texas, donated $500 toward Thor’s recovery (“That was such a blessing,” Christopher says), and after experiencing firsthand the frustration pit bull owners encounter when trying to book air transport for their dogs, the Laskowskis decided to put Thor on a Delta Airlines cargo flight.
To ensure that Thor’s voyage would be a first-class experience, Don undertook all the minutiae involved with shipping an animal. He acquired a sky kennel that was big and secure enough to hold a large dog; lined it with comfy, absorbent padding; and prepped the passenger for his trip by taking him on an exhilarating whirlwind tour of New York City. Don brought Thor to several dog parks, hoping the activity would tire him out so he’d sleep through the flight. “I wanted him to be nice and calm by the time we got to the airport,” he says.
On Friday, May 11, at 6.30 p.m., Thor was homeward bound. “Don did everything, and he charged us just $200, which I thought was nothing in comparison to what he did to take care of Thor for us,” says a grateful Eileen, who has noticed a big difference in Thor since his return.
The change was evident as soon as the family picked him up at the Delta cargo dock in San Antonio.
“It’s like he left a boy and came back a man,” Christopher concludes. “He’s not as playful as he was. I’m still worried about letting him go outside — he slept for, like, 11 hours when he got home, and he hasn’t really left my side. I think he thinks something’s going to happen again, so he stays pretty close to me. Thor used to like sleeping in his crate, but since he’s come back, he sleeps with me more.”
As for that hole in the fence? It’s getting fixed this weekend.